Petit Bateau is a French clothing brand that has crafted beautiful clothes for children and families since 1893.
Garments are exquisitely made with a timeless, French coastal feel. The Petit Bateau label is sold directly to consumers from its website. The label is also carried by upscale department stores and clothing boutiques around the world.
What is Petit Bateau?
Petit Bateau is a premium French children’s clothing label that crafts stylish garments for children to explore the world with confidence and creativity.
Petit Bateau has three core commitments in creating clothing: the liberty to move, the liberty to create, and the liberty to breathe.
- Liberty to Move: Clothing that enables playful and carefree movement in high-quality clothes. This liberty of movement makes life easier for children and parents.
- Liberty to Create: This is a nod to the award-winning team of designers and illustrators and the liberty they have to imagine beautiful, artistic garments. Based in Paris, France, the design team creates collections that weather changing seasons and trends. Iconic stitching and designs are updated and modernized. Creators have also collaborated with big names in fashion and art like Christian Lacroix, Didier Ludot, Claude Ponti, and Hervé Tullet.
- Liberty to Breathe: The third tenet of the brand emphasizes Petit Bateau’s goal to create clothing in which kids can roam free outdoors. Petit Bateau has a “vision of a free childhood that flourishes on contact with nature”. The brand is committed to minimizing its environmental footprint. Petit Bateau uses eco-friendly fabrics and works hard to reduce energy consumption and minimize CO2 emissions.
Is Petit Bateau a designer?
Petit Bateau is a designer kids’ clothing brand headquartered in Troyes, France. While roots are traced back to 1893, Petit Bateau officially launched as a children’s brand in 1920.
Pierre Valton, the brand’s founder, was Petit Bateau’s first designer. His son, Etienne, was also a designer and his innovations brought Petit Bateau global recognition.
Today a team of designers based in Paris, France continue to create and reimagine the iconic Petit Bateau brand.
What is Petit Bateau meaning in English?
Literally translated to English, petit bateau means little boat. When creating the brand, founder Pierre Valton was inspired by the French children’s nursery rhyme “Maman les p’tits bateaux” (or “Mommy, do the little boats on the water have legs?”)
The first verse of Les P’tits Bateaux is the most popular and widely known.
Maman, les p’tits bateaux
Qui vont sur l’eau,
Ont-ils des jambes ?
Mais oui mon gros bêta
S’ils n’en avaient pas,
Ils ne march’raient pas.
Mommy, the little boats
That go on the water,
Do they have legs?
Of course, my *silly goose
If they had none
They wouldn’t move along.
*Literally translated, “gros bêta” means “big dummy”. Within the context of the children’s song, it’s a more endearing and non-pejorative term like “silly one”, “silly goose”, or “silly billy”.
Boats afloat without legs also inspired Valton to cut the legs off of the long, woolen underpants that children and adults wore during that era. These woolen pants were unhygienic and often itchy and uncomfortable. For added freedom of movement, he also switched the fabric to cotton.
Metaphorically, Petit Beau means the freedom to explore the world unencumbered.
What is Petit Bateau known for?
Petit Bateau has many claims to fame, including its creation of the modern underpants
Yes! The brand created the little white underpants that most everyone wears today (although white is less common).
In 1920, brand founder Valton modernized the long, wool underpants commonly worn by kids and grown-ups. He switched the fabric from itchy wool to soft cotton and hacked off the legs. He eventually swapped out the buttons for an elasticized waist. Years later, in 1937, Valton won the Grand Prix d’Innovation at a 1937 world exhibition in Paris.
The brand is also known for bringing to life the white T-shirt trend of the 1990’s. In 1994, Claudia Schiffer walked the runway wearing a Petit Bateau T-shirt under a Chanel suit.
That white T-shirt became an overnight sensation. The child size T-shirt that Schiffer wore was made available in adult sizes. Other designers jumped on the trend and it became a fashion staple. It also marked Petit Bateau’s entrance into the ready-to-wear adult clothing market.
Petit Bateau is also known for its iconic, Breton striped tops, boat collared shirts, and rain coats. The brand name, after all, is a nod to boats and Brittany is part of France’s northern Atlantic coast (adjacent to Normandy).
Is Petit Bateau still in business?
Yes! Petit Bateau is still in business and running strong. Like other brands, Petit Bateau has been impacted by economic downturns and major global events. But over 100 years since its inception, Petit Bateau is still swimming along.
Here’s a brief timeline of some major events in Petit Bateau’s history:
- 1893: Pierre Valton opens an undergarment and hosiery factory in Aube, capital of the French textile industry in the 19th century.
- 1918: Valton’s son, Etienne, invents leg-less underpants and trademarks the new modern underpants.
- 1929: Petit Bateau brand is registered.
1937: The brand wins an innovation prize at the World Fair in Paris, France.
- 1940’s and 1950’s: Post World War II, Petit Bateau continues to expand its product offerings. Some credit Petit Bateau with inventing the infant bodysuit.
- 1960: Petit Bateau invents terry velour in its workshops and introduces the specialty fabric to the world.
- 1980’s: After several decades of growth, the brand is on the verge of bankruptcy.
- 1988: Petit Bateau is acquired by the Rocher Group (formerly known as the Yves Rocher Group).
- 1990’s: Petit Bateau popularizes the little white T-shirt (cut waist-length) after supermodel Claudia Schiffer wears a Petit Bateau tee on the catwalk under a couture suit. Other designers and shoppers flock to the white T-shirt trend. Petit Bateau enters the adult ready-to-wear fashion market.
- 2000: Petit Bateau opens its flagship store on the iconic Champs-Élysées in Paris.
- 2017: Petit Bateau develops a program for shoppers to recycle and purchase used Petit Bateau clothing. The program is called “Faites passer les Petit Bateau” (Pass on the Petit Bateau). This also highlights the apparel’s “nearly indestructible” quality.
Does Petit Bateau ship to Canada?
No, Petit Bateau does not ship directly to Canada. Previously, there was a US version of the Petit Bateau site. Canadian shoppers could shop Petit Bateau and use a package forwarding service to get their order shipped to them after a brief transit in the US.
Canadian shoppers can shop the UK version of Petit Bateau and have their package forwarded to them with international services like Forward2Me. Rates start at around £18.85 per kilogram.
Alternately, you shop the Petit Bateau label at retailers who stock this brand:
Does Petit Bateau ship to USA?
No, not anymore. Petit Bateau no longer ships directly to the USA.
Until a year or so ago, Petit Bateau did have a US version of its website. US shoppers could shop Petit Bateau just like any other online retailer and even get free shipping when meeting the minimum purchase requirement.
As a workaround, US shoppers can have their package shipped from the UK to the US using a package forwarding service like Forward2ME. Rates start around £18.85 per kilogram or around $10.31 USD per pound.
You can also shop for Petit Bateau at Saks Fifth Avenue and other retailers who stock the brand:
What does Petit Bateau sell?
Petit Bateau sells high-quality apparel and accessories for babies, boys, girls, and women.
Among the items that the retailer sells are:
- Rompers and Jumpsuits
- Tops and Tees
- Sweaters / Jumpers and Knitwear
What sizes does Petit Bateau carry?
Petit Bateau carries clothing in sizes Newborn to 36 months for babies and sizes 2 – 18 for boys and girls. For women, Petit Bateau carries sizes XXS – M in UK sizes. (That’s size XS to L in French sizing for women.)
How does Petit Bateau sizing run?
For women’s clothing, Petit Bateau sizing does run small. Or rather, Petit Bateau uses more traditional women’s sizing. There has been significant size inflation over the years in the US apparel market.
Petit Bateau’s women’s clothing starts at a Size 12. This aligns with a 24 1/2” waist, which would be a 0 or 00 size in the US. Needless to say, a US size 12 will not fit the same. It’s best to refer to the measurement chart.
For baby and children’s clothing, Petit Bateau does run true to size. Sizing is based on age correlated to height in centimeters.
For example, if your child is 3 years old they would likely wear a size 3Y. The Petit Bateau measurement chart lists a 3Y garment as designed for a child 95 cm in height (or 37 inches). You can convert CM to inches easily with Google and other unit translation apps.
Where are Petit Bateau clothes made?
Petit Bateau clothes are made in Morocco, Tunisia, France (city of Troyes), and in China.
Petit Bateau has received criticism because many feel the label implies that all of their clothing is made in France. In reality, Que Choisir (French source) estimates that only 20% of Petit Bateau apparel is made in France.
Petit Bateau has also received criticism for not being more upfront about where and how supplies are sourced. In a statement on the website, Petit Bateau says they are working towards full transparency.
Petit Bateau notes that they exceed European Union standards on disclosing product origins and are going even further. By 2023, they pledge to add full product information and list every location where each stage of the garment’s production took place.
Is Petit Bateau expensive?
Petit Bateau is a designer label and priced accordingly; garments are three to four times higher in price than what you might find from Carter’s or Cat and Jack. But this reflects the premium quality.
Here are some typical price tags for full cost garments:
- 3-pack of long-sleeve bodysuits: $35+
- 2-pack of short-sleeve bodysuits: $29+
- T-shirts: $20 – $35
- Classic Breton striped top: $49+
- Classic Breton striped wool sweater: $89
- Classic cut cotton dress: $59
- Sleeveless cotton playdress: $35+
- Pants and trousers: $41 – $65
- Leggings and joggers: $19 – $29
- Pajamas: $40 – $55
- Sweatshirts and hoodies: $50 – $55
- Cardigans: $45 – $85
If you’re obsessed with quality, style, or Frenchness, Petit Bateau is worth it. Petit Bateau constructs high quality garments that are both timeless and trendsetting. In France, Petit Bateau is what chic, French babies are wearing. Petit Bateau has the highest market share for all newborn baby clothes in France.
Additionally, you can find frequent sales and clearance markdowns for the label. At any given time you can find sales, “Last Chance” markdowns, or clearance merchandise on the Petit Bateau website.
The “Last Chance” section features items (often 1,000+ goods) marked down by 30% to 50% off or more.
How many stores does Petit Bateau have?
Worldwide, Petit Bateau has over 300 store locations in nearly 40 countries. This includes a U.S. store in Beverly Hills, California and 6 Petit Bateau store locations in London, England. (Yes, all 6 stores in the UK are in London.)
There are presently no physical store locations for Petit Bateau in Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.
What retailers carry Petit Bateau? Who sells Petit Bateau?
If you want to get your Petit Bateau fix and you’re not lucky enough to live in the United Kingdom or the European Union, there are plenty of ways to shop the brand.
Store who sell Petit Bateau include:
- Alex and Alexa
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Miny Ruby
- Children’s Salon / Children’s Salon Outlet
- Bambini Fashion
There is some Petit Bateau brand merchandise featured on Amazon. It’s important to note that there is no official Petit Bateau store on Amazon though. All of the Petit Bateau listed garments are sold by third-party sellers. It’s possible that an item listed as Petit Bateau is a counterfeit good.